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The Hot List: 2009 Dental and Vision Providers

March 5, 2009
2008 DENTAL AND VISION PROVIDERS

With a range of vision benefit programs available to them, employers can offer employees choices while controlling the cost of the benefit even as general health care costs continue to rise.
"If you look at the major providers, I see a lot of `high-medium-low' designs similar to what an employee might see in a medical offering," said Manny Menendez, principle benefits consultant-health management practice with Lincolnshire, Illinois-based Hewitt Associates Inc.
By offering a range of copay levels, employers hope to keep the benefit attractive for those employees who need it most—particularly older workers and those with chronic vision problems and other illnesses—while keeping costs down for others. The average employer spends less than 5 percent of total health care-related spending on employee vision care, Menendez said.
On the dental-benefits front, the National Association of Dental Plans and the Delta Dental Plans Association, the U.S. industry's two trade associations, are closely watching health care reform efforts and how they may affect dental benefits, officials said.
The groups are particularly concerned about changes that would remove employers' ability to deduct such premiums from their taxes and counting dental benefits as taxable income for employees.
"Over 96 percent of all dental benefits are provided through employment or other private and public groups," said Evelyn Ireland, Dallas-based executive director of the National Association of Dental Plans. "Changes in employer-based coverage could significantly erode current dental coverage and thereby reduce the oral health of Americans."


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